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Nix v WHU-67I’ve been play­ing goal­keep­er for the Wel­ling­ton Phoenix for five sea­sons now. While I’ve had vari­ous reas­ons for anti­cip­at­ing a new sea­son dur­ing that time, I’ve nev­er had such a genu­ine sense of con­fid­ence head­ing into an A‑League com­pet­i­tion before now.

I know this sounds like a typ­ic­al cliché from a pro­fes­sion­al ath­lete and — fair enough — I roll my eyes when I hear sim­il­ar com­ments made in the media. I would try to word it dif­fer­ently, except that is my true feel­ing about the new sea­son: “genu­ine confidence”.

One of my favour­ite quotes is from Muhammad Ali: “The fight is won or lost far away from wit­nesses — behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” I love this quote because every­one can relate to it, not just box­ers or pro­fes­sion­al ath­letes. It’s only now at the wise old age of 31, after 14 years of pro­fes­sion­al foot­ball, that I have really embraced the mean­ing of these words and put them into action.

You see, like a boxer’s pre­par­a­tion for a fight, a foot­ball team’s pre-sea­son is just as import­ant. The A‑League off-sea­son lasts a seem­ingly end­less six months. After a four-week hol­i­day we are left with a five-month pre-sea­son train­ing pro­gramme. This, I will admit, is my least favour­ite part of my dream job, and I think most of my team-mates will agree. Five months does, how­ever, give us plenty of time for ‘spar­ring’.

Thank­fully we have had some pretty good ‘spar­ring’ part­ners this time round. Those that came to West­pac Sta­di­um on 26 July will know what I’m talk­ing about: the Foot­ball United Tour double-head­er. This was a rare oppor­tun­ity for Kiwis to check out a couple of the Eng­lish Premi­er League’s most pres­ti­gi­ous clubs — West Ham United and New­castle United.

This ambi­tious pro­ject from our club’s own­ers has giv­en us our best pre-sea­son to date and is a massive step towards a suc­cess­ful A‑League cam­paign. If we can carry our pre-sea­son form into game one and bey­ond, I’m con­vinced we can achieve our goal of play­ing finals football.

Recruit­ment in foot­ball is just like in any work­place, and vital to achiev­ing an organisation’s goals. We have lost a couple of key play­ers from last sea­son, and our head coach, Ernie Mer­rick, and his staff have left no stone unturned when look­ing for replacements.

The club has picked up a second Span­iard, Ale­jandro Rodrig­uez Gor­rin (cool name, I know), a Dutch­man by the not-so-cool name of Roly Bone­va­cia, and an Aus­sie kid, Nath­an Burns, who is pretty decent in front of goal. Throw this lot in with some of the best Kiwi tal­ent around, and I can’t help but nod my head in approval.

With our best pre-sea­son to date and a leth­al mix of Kiwi and for­eign tal­ent, the final ingredi­ent in our recipe for suc­cess is you — the fans.

We have a pas­sion­ate core of sup­port­ers in the Yel­low Fever and the play­ers would love to see that group con­tin­ue to grow. The atmo­sphere they cre­ate not only heats up the sta­di­um on a chilly Wel­ling­ton even­ing but they can also be heard loud and clear on the TV at home.

Come and be a part of some­thing that is spe­cial to Wel­ling­ton. It’s time for the Phoenix to rise.

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